Additional Investments Required to Attain the National AIDS Targets
23 August 2019
The Global AIDS Update 2019, released by UNAIDS, shows that many challenges in addressing HIV/AIDS remain for Lao PDR.
The HIV outlook continues to raise concern. In 2018, around 85% of the estimated 12,000 Lao people living with HIV knew their status, with 54% of them receiving antiretroviral therapy – significantly below the global target of 90%. Challenges also remain around the access to services of key populations, especially men who have sex with men and female sex workers, stigmatization and discrimination against people living with HIV, and heavy dependence on reducing external support. Only US$ 2 million per year are currently available, compared to a minimum of US$5 million that would be required annually to work with key populations and provide effective treatment.
“While some progress has been made in addressing HIV/AIDS, more investments from the Government will be critical to keep the new generation free from HIV”, said Ms Sara Sekkenes, UN Resident Coordinator in Lao PDR, “and development partners, including civil society organizations, will continue to play an important role in this area.”
The involvement of key populations and communities will be essential for the national AIDS response. According to experts, HIV prevalence among men who have sex in Laos with is growing particularly fast. In 2014—2017, the average HIV prevalence among this group increased from 1.6 to 2.4%, Vientiane becoming the focal risk area with 7% prevalence. Yet, only one third of these men are aware of their HIV status. Female sex workers along with their clients, and migrant populations and their partners, also constitute groups at particular risk. Civil society organizations, who have the best access to key populations, will be critical in complementing the Government’s HIV prevention and response measures.
“Lao PDR needs to accelerate and intensify its AIDS response, and especially to increase access to hard to reach key populations. Meaningful participation of key populations and young people will be essential for the success of AIDS response”, said Thongdeng Silakoune, UNAIDS Country Manager in Lao PDR.
Lao PDR boasts some of the earliest successes in responding to the HIV epidemic and was lauded in 2009 by Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General at the time. Yet, progress is slowing and it Is far from certain that the Fast-Track Targets of the UN Political Declaration on AIDS will be achieved by 2020. With initiatives such as the recently piloted oral fluid HIV screening for men who have sex with men, Lao PDR shows it has the capacity to push back the spread – provided much-needed investments are made.
Global AIDS Update 2019: bit.ly/2JTnROI